Music theory > Duration of sounds > Time signature > Simple and compound meter

Simple and compound meter

Definitions of simple and compound meters


Simple meter (or simple time) id a meter where each beat in a measure can be subdivided by two.

Compound meter (or compound time) is a meter where each beat in a measure can be subdivided by three.

Meters classifications

Meters can be classified into simple meters and compound meters, and as duple, triple, and quadruple meters.

Duple meter: the measure united states of america (bar United kingdom) is divisible by two beats.
Triple meter: the measure (bar) is divisible by three beats.
Quadruple meter: the measure (bar) is divisible by four beats.

So for example:


A simple duple meter refers to a measure that contains 2 beats and each beat can be subdivided by 2.
A compound quadruple meter refers to a measure that contains 4 beats and each beat can be subdivided by 3.

Example of simple meter


In this example, beats are divided by two (2): One beat can contain 2 eighth note (quaver)

Example of compound meter


In this example, beats are divided by three (3): One beat can contain 3 eighth note (quaver)

Time signature of simple meters

Here are time signatures of simple meters:

Value of 1 beat
whole note (semibreve) half note (minim) quarter note (crotchet) eighth note (quaver) sixteenth note (semiquaver) thirty-second note (demisemiquaver) sixty-fourth note (hemidemisemiquaver)
1 beat per measure 1/1 1/2 1/4 1/8 1/16 1/32 1/64
simple duple 2/1 2/2 2/4 2/8 2/16 2/32 2/64
simple triple 3/1 3/2 3/4 3/8 3/16 3/32 3/64
simple quadruple 4/1 4/2 4/4 4/8 4/16 4/32 4/64
simple quintuple 5/1 5/2 5/4 5/8 5/16 5/32 5/64
and so on... and so on...

Here are most common time signatures of simple meters:

Value of 1 beat
whole note (semibreve) half note (minim) quarter note (crotchet) eighth note (quaver) sixteenth note (semiquaver) thirty-second note (demisemiquaver) sixty-fourth note (hemidemisemiquaver)
1 beat per measure
simple duple 2/2 2/4 2/8
simple triple 3/2 3/4 3/8
simple quadruple 4/2 4/4 4/8
simple quintuple 5/4

Time signature of compound meters

Here are time signatures of compound meters:

Value of 1 beat
dotted whole note (dotted semibreve) half note (minim) dotted quarter note (dotted crotchet) dotted eighth note (dotted quaver) dotted sixteenth note (dotted semiquaver) dotted thirty-second note (dotted demisemiquaver) dotted sixty-fourth note (dotted hemidemisemiquaver)
1 beat per measure 3/2 3/4 3/8 3/16 3/32 3/64 3/128
compound duple 6/2 6/4 6/8 6/16 6/32 6/64 6/128
compound triple 9/2 9/4 9/8 9/16 9/32 9/64 9/128
compound quadruple 12/2 12/4 12/8 12/16 12/32 12/64 12/128
compound quintuple 15/2 15/4 15/8 15/16 15/32 15/64 15/128
and so on... and so on...

Here are most common time signatures of compound meters:

Value of 1 beat
dotted whole note (dotted semibreve) half note (minim) dotted quarter note (dotted crotchet) dotted eighth note (dotted quaver) dotted sixteenth note (dotted semiquaver) dotted thirty-second note (dotted demisemiquaver) dotted sixty-fourth note (dotted hemidemisemiquaver)
1 beat per measure 3/8
compound duple 6/8
compound triple 9/8
compound quadruple 12/8
compound quintuple 15/8

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